#138: Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night

Castlevania spiritual successor a big success

june gloom
5 min readMay 28


This review was originally posted to Twitter on July 18, 2019

Initial release: June 18, 2019
Platform: PlayStation 4, XBox One, PC, Switch
Developer: ArtPlay

It’s here! Four years in the making, Koji Igarashi’s spiritual sequel to the freewheeling Metroid-style Castlevania games he directed is finally out after multiple delays and Kickstarter drama — was it worth the wait?

In a word, yes. If metroidvania is what you crave, then metroidvania is what you shall get, and this is a Castlevania game in all but name. (Seriously: there are analogues for just about every classic Castlevania enemy, all the old Castlevania tricks still work; it may as well be a spinoff game.) There’s a lot of elements from the old Igarashi Castlevania games that have been mixed up and put into this one game. The Sorrow duology’s soul-collecting mechanic is now crystal shards for example; much of the castle is modeled after Symphony of the Night (there’s even a vampire librarian!) It’s obvious that the developers’ decision to go back and redo the art assets after an initial tepid reception has been a major boon; it looks much, much better now, especially with much better lighting. This is a gorgeous game, utilizing the Unreal engine to really push what can be done with a 2.5D game.

While the game draws some thematic inspiration from Order of Ecclesia, particularly with the female protagonist (Miriam could almost be Shanoa’s sister) and the sidequests, the game takes much more after the Sorrow duology or Symphony of the Night. It lacks the unique, disconnected structures of Ecclesia or Portrait of Ruin, for instance, instead going for a more traditional castle to explore. And other than a rough initial hump that takes after Ecclesia’s brutal numbers game, it presents a fairly even challenge. There are, of course, some bonus bosses who will give you a run for your money, some of which are behind doors that you must find a key to (and won’t find until much later in the game.) These are entirely optional, though can be worth fighting. Much like Symphony there are things you can do that can absolutely break the game, but even if you don’t do that, you will want to invest some time in learning the alchemy crafting system to fashion yourself items and equipment and upgrade your shards.

In addition to the alchemy lab that you unlock early on, there is also a shop that will stock just about anything once you’ve crafted it, as well as a few Ecclesia-like quests, though in this case the quests are fairly uninspired and one-note. There are three quest-givers, and all give what’s basically the same quest over and over: one wants specific food items, another wants specific equipment, and the third wants certain numbers of specific enemies killed dead. Those are the only quests. There’s also a farmer character who will grow crops for you provided you give him the seeds and a little bit of time, but other than providing a hassle-free stock of a few basic food ingredients (which he can only grow one at a time) he’s generally not worthy of note. You’ll also get a bevy of weaponry to help you out, generally falling into one of several different types: three kinds of swords (western, Japanese and greatswords), spears, clubs, whips and even guns! All have their pros and cons, so you can play to your preferences.

Michiru Yamane returns to do the soundtrack, and it’s some of her best work. Some tracks are recognizably updated versions of Curse of the Moon tracks, others are wholly original, but all are amazing.

Speaking of Curse of the Moon, I think it’s officially non-canon at this point. While it never had much of a plot, in true Castlevania 3 style, the plot of Ritual simply doesn’t make sense if Curse were a prequel (and, due to Plot Events in Ritual, it can’t be a sequel either.) Speaking of plot, Ritual of the Night has quite a bit for a Castlevania game, with lots of dialogue. As an extra treat, however, there are some actual in-engine cutscenes, where the camera actually moves into the game space, making it feel more real rather than just an ant-farm like most sidescrollers. The downside is that sometimes when you’re simply trying to get stuff done back at home base, NPCs want to keep talking to you. And while you can skip it, it’s inadvisable because they often drop hints as to what to do next, or give important background for the plot. This game can be obtuse enough without those hints, too. Much like Symphony of the Night, there’s a secret to getting the best endings, and much like Symphony, the game doesn’t tell you much about how to actually do that. This places the game in that age-old mindset where you have to compare notes with your friends who are just as stuck as you are. Then again, it’s not the 90s anymore, you can just look it up — you’ll want to look up which enemies drop what, too, since the game doesn’t tell you. Perhaps the worst example is that to even get started on the endgame content, you have to farm a certain enemy for a certain ability — you can’t just find it in the course of play as you normally would. The game gives you zero indication that you have to do this.

Crafting is rather important in this game, especially food. You’re limited in how many healing potions you can take with you, which means that if you want to stockpile health items, you’ll need to learn how to cook the good stuff (or just buy it from the shop.)

While the game generally gives some challenge to the average player, there’s an early hump where it’s just brutal and unforgiving, culminating in a fight with the samurai Zangetsu (voiced by David Hayter!) that pretty much forces you to git gud or die. I nearly quit at this point; early on, enemies are hard-hitting damage sponges while you’re basically a wet napkin armed with a noodle, and Zangetsu was a final insult on top of that. Once you get past this first hurdle, though, and get some better equipment, it’s much smoother.

I enjoyed my time with bloodstained. don’t be fooled by the new name and the Kickstarter campaign and all that — this is as pure a Castlevania game as you can get. It brings very little new to the table, but that’s okay, because this game is exactly what fans want. Aside from the occasionally uneven difficulty and general sense of opaqueness, this is a quality game that feels like a love letter to all the good things about Castlevania. What more could you ask for?




june gloom

Media critic, retired streamer, furry. I love you. [she/they]